Oracle is to start a series of seminars on its pricing and licensing practices later this year to clear up confusion among users.
Oracle already publishes many details on its licensing and pricing on its website and last September released a 40-page software investment guide for customers. Now the company will offer interactive seminars so customers can get direct answers to their questions.
"The Software Investment Guide is great overall broad information, but I think the key for seminars is that people can ask questions that apply directly to their particular situation," said Oracle's vice president of global pricing and licensing srategy, Jacqueline Woods.
"It is another step in the right direction to provide clarity on our pricing and licensing models."
Oracle intends to offer the free seminars online, at various conferences and during a road show that will stop at any worldwide location where enough Oracle users have expressed interest. Oracle is already conducting an online user survey to assess interest.
Users and analysts welcomed the seminars as another way to learn more about an area that most software suppliers like to keep mysterious.
"I think customers are going to attend the seminars. If I were the chief information officer responsible for managing my bottom line I certainly would attend," said Karen Brownfield, a representative of the International Oracle Users Council (IOUC). "I hope Oracle will put the publicity out there that announces the seminars."
Analyst Joshua Greenbaum, principal at Enterprise Application Consulting, said, "Oracle has done probably more than anyone in making its pricing policies as transparent as possible and they should get credit for that. This has been one of the great mysteries of the enterprise software space."
Oracle buyers are definitely still confused about the supplier's pricing and licensing scheme, said Gartner research director Jane Disbrow.
"Things go wrong especially when people have to change from an older licensing model to a current model. That's when they generally end up having to pay more money to Oracle," she said. "These seminars are a great thing and will really help their customers who really want to understand their licensing metrics."
Disbrow added that a straightforward pricing and licensing scheme might be easier to implement.
"Until they simplify their licence model and stay with that simplified licence model for several years they are going to run into this same trouble," she said.
Oracle recently launched a new pricing model for its E-Business Suite, just over a year after it introduced flat fee pricing for its enterprise applications suite.
Customers will have to keep complaining because, according to Oracle's Woods, there is no such thing as a static pricing and licensing policy.
"I don't think we are in an environment where you can have a static pricing model. I don't think that is a paradigm that can exist. As long as the computer industry keeps changing, to have a pricing model that never changes is not a realistic expectation," she said. "I think customers want more flexibility."
Joris Evers writes for IDG News Service